Whales may be using underwater mountains to guide them on 1,000-mile journeys across the ocean, new research reveals.
Scientists who track the mammals using sophisticated satellite tags say the whales appear to navigate ocean by swimming from one sea mount to the next, reported the Sunday Times.
The findings were published in a new book titled Where the Animals Go by Dr James Cheshire and Oliver Uberti, which documents some of the world's most complex animal migrations.
Cheshire, a data mapper and senior lecturer at University College London, said the findings were extremely significant.
"This data tells us something about whales that we never knew before," he said. "These underwater mountains play an important role in their ecology, and that makes them important in conservation, too."
It is thought the movement patterns could also reflect meeting points and mating rituals, not just as landmarks.
An earlier paper produced by French scientists said, "sea mounts may have other roles, including breeding; singing by males has been reported on migration routes," reported the Sunday Times. "Sea mounts could also be a migratory landmark; these features often have distinct geomagnetic signatures."
The scientists tracked 34 whales in the south Pacific Ocean, tracking them over several months, before the data was visualised in Cheshire and Uberti's book.
Though the study was localised to humpback whales, which travelled more than 2,000 miles in the course of tracking, the findings are consistent with research into other breeds of whales. North Atlantic right whales and sperm whales have exhibited similar behaviour, congregating near underwater mounts.
Cheshire and Uberti's book also tracks seals, baboons, sharks, elephants, bumblebees, snowy owls and wolves.
It demonstrates the vast advancements made in "the animal-tracking revolution" which is making it easier for scientists to pinpoint the movements of their subjects. Particularly, it is pioneering the work of ecologists who try and preserve animals in an environment of global warming and rising sea levels.